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Cantata BWV 65
Sie Werden aus Saba alle kommen
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of January 10, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (January 10, 2016):
Epiphany Cantata 65: 'Sie werden aus Saba alle Kommen'

For the Feast of Epiphany closing the Days of Christmas, Bach composed Cantata 65 “Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen,” (They will all come from Sheba, Isaiah 60:6), as another unique musical sermon -- wholly original, stately, and vivid – that has a memorable opening chorus plus a tenor and bass aria (all in dance form) using pastoral pairs of recorders, hunting oboes da caccia, and horns, plus tenor and bass narrative recitatives, and two contrasting chorales, the festive Puer natus est in Bethlehem and the closing pre-Lenten Paul Gerhardt pietist hymn, “Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn.”

Bach’s Magi Cantata 65 is the last in a series of five cantatas Bach composed for the Christmas season (1723-24) that has an opening biblical chorus, at least one internal plain chorale, this (no. 2) following the opening chorus quotation from the Epistle (Isaiah 60:1), Stanza 3, “Die Kön'ge aus Saba kamen dar” (The kings came from Sheba, from the anonymous 1439/1543 Epiphany Feast hymn, Puer natus est in Bethlehem (Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem, A child is born in Bethlehem), and the closing (no. 7) plain chorale), Paul Gerhardt’s pre-Lenten 1647 “Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn” (I have surrendered to God’s heart and mind), Stanza 10, “Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich dir / Getrost in deine Hände” (Ah now, my God, may I fall / consoled in your hands), set to the 1528 Claude de Sermisy “Death and Dying” hymn (NLGB 325) “Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit” (What my God wants, may it always happen).1

Cantata 65, Feast of Epiphany, “Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen,” (They will all come from Sheba, Isaiah 60:6). It was presented on Thursday, January 6, at the early main service of the Thomas Church before the sermon on the day’s Gospel, Matthew 2:1-12 (Adoration of the Magi) by deacon Urban Gottfried Sieber (1668-1741) and repeated in the afternoon main vesper service at the Nikolaikirche before the sermon on the day’s Epistle, Isaiah 60:1-6 (the Gentiles shall be converted), by H. Rücker, a substitute or intern, says Martin Petzoldt in Back Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.2 The full text is found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Epiphany.htm. The German text is that of Luther’s translation published in 1545, the English is the Authorised (King James) Version 1611.

Besides experimenting with unusual combinations of instruments to support the particular text, Bach during this time was making topical and tactical placement of chorales as part of unique structures that suggest collaboration with certain librettists, the most logical being his St. Thomas pastor and supporter Christian Weiss Sr. (1671-1737), who’s possible collaboration is discussed below, ‘Text Author Christian Weiss Sr.?’

The Introit Psalm for the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) is Psalm 8, Domine, Dominus noster (O Lord our Lord, how excellent in thy name in all the earth!, KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 367). He describes this psalm as the “Prophecy of Christ, his kingdom, suffering, and magnificence.” The full KJV text is found at http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Psalms-Chapter-8/. It was set as a polyphonic motet of Palestrina, http://imslp.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Giovanni_Pierluigi_da_Palestrina; Orlande di Lasso, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W0N-bAo9n0; Jakob Hassler, http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Domine_Dominus_noster_(Jakob_Hassler); and Josquin Desprez, http://imslp.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Josquin_Desprez.

Bach used two chorale texts (Francis Browne Engish btranslations) and two melodies in this cantata: 1. Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem (Puer natus in Bethlehem), CT http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale075-Eng3.htm, CM http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Ein-Kind-geborn-zu-Bethlehem.htm; and 2. Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit with the alternative text, Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn , CT http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale076-Eng3.htm, CM: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Was-mein-Gott-will-das-gscheh-allzeit.htm.

Cantata 65 Structure, Importance

The structure of Cantata 65 and the importance of Bach’s works is described in Julian Mincham’s Intro. to Cantata 65, http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-35-bwv-65.htm.3 <<Bach incorporated three chorales in three of the previous four cantatas. In C 65 he reverts to a more established structure with one exception. He begins with an imposing chorus and ends with a plain chorale, sandwiching a pair of linked [bass, tenor] recitative-arias between them but he also inserts an additional chorale as the second movement. Is he still experimenting with the cantata, structure, the place of the chorale within it and searching for some, as yet unattained ideal?

Epiphany was an important day in the church calendar but only three cantatas survive written for this day, C 65, C 123 [“Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen” (Dearest Immanuel, leader of the righteous)], from the second cycle and C 248/6 [“Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben” (Lord, when our arrogant enemies snort with rage)], the last part of the Christmas Oratorio (vol 2, chapter 33 and vol 3, chapter 48). It seems inconceivable that Bach could not have composed more for this event. [Bach’s Epiphany Feast performance calendar is discussed below).

All three works begin with a chorus of stature and that for C 123, although incontrovertibly the most subtle of the three, is also the only one to lack brass instruments. C 248/6 has the usual trio of trumpets with drums and C65 has two horns along with the expected oboes, strings and continuo. The oboe da caccia are those of lowest register and they play an important role throughout the cantata. A pair of horns is usually a sign of festivity or celebration, immediately apparent in this instance [C 65] as they enter with a striking fanfare-like call above a single continuo chord.>>

Introit Psalm 8

The Introit Psalm for the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) is Psalm 8, Domine, Dominus noster (O Lord our Lord, how excellent in thy name in all the earth!, KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 367. He describes Psalm 8 as the “Prophecy of Christ, his Kingdom, suffering, and magnificence. It was set as a polyphonic motet of Palestrina, http://imslp.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Giovanni_Pierluigi_da_Palestrina; Orlande di Lasso, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W0N-bAo9n0; Jakob Hassler, http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Domine_Dominus_noster_(Jakob_Hassler); and Josquin Desprez, http://imslp.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Josquin_Desprez.

Bach used two chorale melodies in this cantata:
1. Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem (Puer natus in Bethlehem)
CT: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale075-Eng3.htm
CM: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Ein-Kind-geborn-zu-Bethlehem.htm;
and
2. Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit with the alternative text, Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn,
CT: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale076-Eng3.htm,
CM:: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Was-mein-Gott-will-das-gscheh-allzeit.htm.

Epiphany and Bach’s Cantata 65

The significance of Epiphany and Bach’s treatment in Cantata 65 are discussed in John Pike’s “Short Commentary,” BCML Discussions Parts 2 (January 28, 2006), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65-D2.htm. <<At Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the Magi, which is celebrated on 6th January in Western Christianity, the gospel reading - and usually also the sermon - is about one of the most folk-tale like episodes of the Christmas story: the Wise Men from the East who, following the star, find the "new-born King of the Jews" in the stable in Bethlehem, worship the Christ child and offer him gold, incense and myrrh (Matthew 2: 1-12). The legend has variously turned the Wise Men into Magi, astrologers and even into kings, has given them the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar - in which guise, to this day, they travel from house to house in many parts of Europe, singing, one of them traditionally with a blackened face to suggest his African origins. The lesson that is read during the church service on that day is excellently suited in this context, and may even have encouraged such customs. It is a vision of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 60: 1-6): one day the heathen peoples will come from afar and turn to God. "Sie werden von Saba alle kommen" ("All they from Sheba shall come"), it concludes, "Gold und Weihrauch bringen und des Herren Lob verkuendigen" ("they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord"). "Sheba" represents a faraway, legendary country somewhere in the south-west of Arabia, but ultimately means "from all over the world".

Bach's Cantata was composed for 6th January 1724. The author of the text - whose identity, as unfortunately is so often the case, is unknown - demonstrated that he was theologically competent and poetically skilful. On the basis of this text, Bach created one of the most beautiful of his Christmas cantatas. With astonishing sureness of touch he combines high art with the folk style. Nowhere does he allow any doubt concerning the seriousness of the theological messages. At the same time, however, he does full justice to the expectations of the lay theologians; it is as though he were adding colour to the biblical images. The use of horns (which at that time were still relatively unusual in church music), oboi da caccia (also a novelty in the sound world of the era and recorders lends the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) a slightly exotic character - without, however, forcing the actual musical artistry into a subservient position. Indeed, quite the opposite is true; as the movement progresses, Bach lays bare his artistry as a composer of fugues. The only surviving material for this cantata is the full score in Bach's own hand; the original parts have been lost. One of the major problems as far as the interpretation of the work is concerned is the absence of a text to which the final chorale (Mvt. 7) should be sung. The tenth verse of "Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn" (1647) by Paul Gerhardt, however, "Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich denn getrost in deine Hände" ("Now, my God, I fall consoled into your embrace") which appears in the space below the chorale in the full score - probably in the hand of Carl Friedrich Zelter, conductor at the Berlin Singakademie - seems eminently appropriate to this context, the confession and expression of unlimited faith in God, and performers usually use it for this purpose.”

Cantata 65 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key, meter:4

1. Chorus (A. canon in four sections, B. choral fugue), instrumental treatment with Choreinbau (choral in-building) style with both sections using full text [SATB; Corno I/II, Flauto I/II, Oboe da caccia I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, Gold und Weihrauch bringen und des Herren Lob verkündigen.” (They will all come from Sheba, bring gold and incense and proclaim the praise of the Lord, Isaiah 60:6) 4/4, 12/8 in passepied-menuett style.
2. Chorale plain with wind instruments [SATB; Flauto I/II all' unisono, Oboe da caccia I/II, Continuo]: Die Kön'ge aus Saba kamen dar / Gold, Weihrauch, Myrrhen brachten sie dar, Alleluja!” (The kings came from Sheba / they brought from there gold, incense and myrrh); a minor; ¾ time.
3. Recitative secco with arioso [Bass, Continuo]: Recirt. “Was dort Jesaias vorhergesehn, / Das ist zu Bethlehem geschehn” (What Isaiah foretold / has happened at Bethlehem)); arioso, “Da du, o Lebensfürst, / Das Licht der Heiden” (where you, o prince of life, become the light of the gentiles); F to G Major; 4/4.
4. Aria in three parts with da-capo-like thematic treatment and ritornelli [Bass; Oboe da caccia I/II, Continuo]: A. “Gold aus Ophir ist zu schlecht” (Gold from Ophir is too slight); B. “Weg, nur weg mit eitlen Gaben” (away, away with vain gifts); C. “Jesus will das Herze haben” (Jesus wants to have your heart); e minor; 4/4.
5. Recitative secco [Tenor; Continuo]: “Verschmähe nicht, / Du, meiner Seele Licht” (Do not scorn, / you who are the light of my soul); a to e minor; 4/4.
6. Aria in three parts with ritornelli and dal segno introduction [Tenor; Oboe da caccia I/II, Flauto I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Nimm mich dir zu eigen hin” (Accept that I should belong to you); B. “Alles, alles, was ich bin . . . Dir zum Dienst gewidmet sein” (All, all that I am . . . should . . . be dedicated to your service), C. same text as B with development following extended ritornello; C Major; 3/8 menuett style.
7. Chorale Plain [SATB, Continuo (no instruments listed). “Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich dir / Getrost in deine Hände” (Ah now, my God, may I fall / consoled in your hands); a minor; 4/4.

Bach's Magi Cantata5

As Alfred Dürr and others have observed, Bach completed his first Christmas season (1723-24) in his Leipzig cantata cycle with BWV 65, "They will from Sheba all come," the cantor's first Magi cantata, with its rich scoring and structural text. Ironically, after creating some eight crowning works, Bach would turn to more intimate pieces and in succeeding years diminish his service production. Perhaps it was a literal as well as figurative preparation for the annual obligation of a Passion on Good Friday, which he anticipates in the closing chorale of Cantata 65.

Research shows that Bach began to turn to texts and chorales which, while illuminating the earliest manifestations of Jesus' importance as well as impending suffering and death, deliberately restricted his creative output. Initially, for succeeding Feasts of Epiphany, Bach produced only one work, the chorale Cantata BWV 123, "Beloved Immanuel (God With Us), Lord of the Righteous."

For the Feast of Epiphany 1726, in his third cantata cycle Bach may have presented a Telemann cantata, possibly "Ich freue mich in Herzen," TVWV 1:826, originally for the 20th Sunday After Trinity, or another solo work for Epiphany, "Hier ist mein geliebster Jesu," TVWV 1:795. In 1729 Picander produced a libretto, dictum "Dieses ist der Tag, den der Herr" (This is the day of the Lord)), P.11. No Bach music survives, except possibly for the closing chorale, "Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzegleich," BWV 375-76. Interestingly, Bach had just set Picander texts for the two previous feast days, Christmas, "Glory to God in the Highest," BWV 197a, and New Years, "God, so like thy name, thus also thy fame," BWV 171.

Bach finally made amends for the Feast of Epiphany with the closing Part 6 of his Christmas Oratorio, a full setting of the gospel Magi story, Matthew 2:1-12. "Lord, when the stiff-necked foes do rage," BWV 248VI. Meanwhile, there is no documentation that Bach repeated any of his three offerings for the Feast of Epiphany. It is possible that Cantata BWV 65 was repeated, since the best evidence, the parts set, does not survive. It is assumed that it went to Friedemann in the first cycle division, alternating manuscripts scores and parts sets between him and Carl Philipp Emanuel, and was lost. The score of BWV 65 was inherited by C.P.E., as well as sketches of the gorgeous opening chorus, found in the score of Cantata BWV 81, "Jesus sleeps, what shall I hope," for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, composed and presented 24 days later on January 30, 1724. Both the scores and the sketches now reside in Berlin.

Opening Chorus Procession

Much has been written about the majesty of the opening processional chorus of the Magi in 12/8 passapied-menuett style. The colorful pastoral wind instrumentation "has its own theological significance," says Robin A. Leaver, in his notes, "Lutheran Epiphany Mass," Leipzig, c.1740," in the Paul McCreesh omnibus realization [BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/McCreesh.htm#C1], "Bach Epiphany Mass," Archiv recording 1998. The instruments represent "the three gifts, (the gold by the horns, the exotic frankincense by the hybrid oboes da caccia and the myrrh - used for embalming - by the recorders which had their own associations with funeral music)." The recorders, for example, also are found in Sicul's contemporary description of the performance of Bach's Funeral Ode, BWV 198, in the Leipzig University Church in 1727, and in the Actus Tragicus," BWV 106, of 1707.

"Further," says Leaver, "the opening motif, often said to represent the swaying camels of the Magi, is built upon three groups of three notes, alluding again to the kings, and their gifts. Although it is the last line of the epistle (Isaiah 60: 6) that is the starting point for this cantata, it is a commentary on the gospel of the day."

Dürr in the <Cantatas of JSB> (p. 175), describes the opening da capo chorus as "an impressive picture of the crowds flocking past. Canonic and fugal devices keep bringing before the eyes of the listener the increasing size of the worshiping multitude." Nicholas Anderson (OCC:JSB, 450) repeats this description of the "gathering hosts of the Gentiles bearing gifts" and suggests that the "dance-like 12/8 rhythm reflects the joyful fulfillment of the biblical prophecy." It is a pastorale-giga, says Doris Finke-Hecklinger in <Dance Character in the Vocal music of JSB> 1970 (p. 155). Little & Jeanne in <Dance and the music of JSB> http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Dance.htm labels it "Giga II."

Both dance sources consider the sixth movement tenor aria, "Take me to Thyself as Thine own," 3/8 andante, to be a minuet with tutti orchestra of the winds plus strings, also accompanying the two plain chorales, Movements Nos. 2 and 7. The bass aria (no. 4) with hunting oboes has a lilting, uplifting quality.

Is it a coincidence that the opening chorus B section fugue begins with bass and then tenor -- the two vocal soloists paired in inmate yet descriptive recitative-aria combinations - movements Nos. 3-4 and 5-6? And, why just those two solo voices?

I also find Doug Cowling's thoughts found in BCW 10/16/09 to be serendipitous: A polyphonic treatment of "Puer Natus" was assigned as the Introit motet, sung as the clergy entered the church at the beginning of the service. "Sie werden aus Saba" has a very unusual feature: the elaborate opening chorus is followed immediately by the Epiphany verse of the "Puer Natus". Bach may have seen the opening chorus as the "traveling music" of the Three Kings traveling from the East, followed by their symbolic "introit" into the house of Mary and Joseph.>

Turning to the golden horns, I am reminded in the opening Magi chorus of another wonderful, brassy opening chorus, "Dazu ist erschienen," BWV 40, for the Third Day of Christmas," performed December 27, 1723, just 10 days prior! Bach later parodied that movement as the closing "sicut erat in principio" of the Missa Brevis in F, BWV 233, possibly commissioned by the horn advocate, Count von Sporck. Another coincidence or just a serendipitous situation? You'll find both the Missa and Cantata BWV 65 in the McCreesh <Bach Epiphany Mass> [Ibid.].

Bach and the Horn

Here's my take on Bach and the horn c. 1724. I start with a quote from W. Gillies Whittaker's Bach Cantatas (II: 703f) near the end, in his discussion of the Peasant Cantata gallant bass solo with horn, No. 16, "Es nehme zehntausand Dukaten": "Count von Sporck, a Stattholder of Bohemia, was a noted friend of music and spent his wealth freely in its cause. He sent German artists to be educated in Italy, he introduced Italian opera [especially Vivaldi] into Bohemia, he made two of his servants learn the newly invented `French horn', and so made it known in Germany. Picander dedicated to him his first collection of religious verse [1725], in spite of the fact that it was Protestant in character and Sporck a devout Catholic. But the count viewed matters of religion with a tolerance rare in those narrow-minded and embittered times. He must have been friendly towards Bach, because the <Sanctus> of the Hohe Messe was sent to him by the composer. He allied to his cultural and religious interests a zeal for hunting. Gottfried Benjamin Hanke, a Silesian Clerk of the Excise in Dresden, wrote a hunting song for the Count, `Frisch auf zum froehlichen Jagen.. This was in 1724; it was popular in Bohemia in 1730, and was so well known in Saxony in 1742, the date of the cantata [BWV 212], that it is incorporated as a local folk-tune."

IMVHO it is quite possible that Count Sporck visited Leipzig at Christmas 1723 and stayed on for the Winter Fair through Epiphany time. This was also about the time Bach began using texts of Picander. The Sanctus was presented on Christmas Day. Another possible coincidence, though still tenuous, is the bass aria with horn solo, "Quoniam to solus sanctus," the penultimate number in Bach's 1733 Missa discussed above. It may be a parody of an aria from the Feb. 12, 1725, sacred wedding Cantata BWV Anh. 14, "Thy blessing flows there like a storm," for the wedding of a Leipzig merchant, possibly a friend of von Sporck.>>

[Note: Thomas Braatz wrote (January 15, 2010): The attached PDF attempts to present material which might point out some important arguments pro and con regarding this hotly debated issue whether horns called for in Bach's music should be played at the higher or lower octave. See: The Üse of Horns in BWV 65 "Sie Werden aus Saba alle kommen," http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV65Horn.pdf.].

TEXT COMMENTS

The biblical references in the Cantata 65 text are described in Scott Sperling comments (February 2, 2006, BCML Discussion, Part 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65-D2.htm): <<’Text in Cantata 65’: The textual theme of Cantata BWV 65 is (if I would be permitted to give it a title) "Giving Gifts to the Lord". The librettist, it seems, desires that the listener be inspired to ask this question: "What can I give to the Lord?"

The Readings for the Epiphany (for which Cantata BWV 65 was written) are Isaiah 60: 1-6 and Matthew 2: 1-12. The two Readings are closely related. The Reading in Isaiah is a prophecy concerning the coming of the "light" of the Lord to the "darkness" of the Gentile nations. It ends speaking of the obeisance and tribute that the Gentile natiowill eventually pay toward the Messiah. The Reading in Matthew tells of the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. Their visit is a partial fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah. They were guided to the Lord by a supernatural "light", the star. Also, Isaiah 60: 6 seems to contain a reference to the Magi's visit: "All they from Sheba shall come: They shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord."

The librettist for Cantata BWV 65 uses this verse, and this verse alone, as the text for Mvt. 1 Chorus. In the Mvt. 2 Chorale, the librettist then ties this verse from Isaiah to the visit of the Magi to Jesus: "The kings came from Sheba. They brought from there gold, incense and myrrh."

Now, the Magi, as far as we can discern from history, were not physically from the land of Sheba (which was located in the Southern Arabian peninsula). They were most likely from Persia, which had for hundreds of years before Christ, a priesthood called "Magi". The prophecy in Isaiah, in referring to "Sheba", was using symbolic language. A signal event in the history of the nation of Israel, was when the Queen of Sheba, having heard of King Solomon's great wisdom from the Lord, visited him, bringing gifts of gold and spices (see I Kings 10:1ff). That event can be considered typologically as the light of the Lord (typified by Solomon) shining on the Gentile nations (typified by the Queen of Sheba). And so, the prophet Isaiah uses Sheba as a symbol of the Gentile nations for the prophecy in Isaiah 60.

In Mvt. 3 Bass Recitative, the libretto (as is often done in the Cantatas) moves beyond Theological considerations, and applies the Readings in a personal way, so as to involve the listener. The Bass Recitative begins by recounting story of the Magi, as prophesied by Isaiah: "What Isaiah foretold has happened in Bethlehem...". Then, in the middle of the 3rd Mvt, the Recitative (and indeed, the rest of the Cantata) becomes a personal meditation: "My Jesus, when I think now of my duty, I must also turn to Your crib." The singer is thankful for the Epiphany, the "light" coming to the Gentiles, but is concerned about what gifts he should give to his Lord: "But what should I bring You, King of Heaven?" His gift? His heart: "If my heart is not too little, then accept it through Your mercy, since I can bring nothing more noble."

Mvt. 4 Bass Aria is a further meditation on this. In the 3rd Mvt, the singer seemed hesitant that he had nothing better to give (no riches of kings) than his heart. In the 4th Mvt, the singer realizes that, indeed, his heart is a much better gift to the Lord, than something such as gold, which is "broken from the Earth". "Gold from Ophir is too slight. Away, away with vain gifts... Jesus wants to have your heart. Give this, O Christian flock to Jesus for the New Year."

On a few different levels, the gifts of the Magi were appropriate for Jesus, at that time. The gifts can be seen as symbolic of the offices of Jesus Christ. The gold speaks f His royalty; the incense (which was commonly used in sacrificial offerings) speaks of His Deity; the myrrh (which was used in the embalming of deceased bodies, see John 19:39) points to His death and thus speaks of His priesthood. On a more material level, I think that it is quite interesting that this was perhaps the only time when our Lord could have needed gifts of a monetary value. Recall that just after the visit of the Magi, the Holy Family would be forced by Herod (who sought to kill Jesus) to flee to Egypt. Certainly, for that journey, they could have well-used any gifts of material value.

But for us, at this time, a gift of gold to the Lord, the stuff of earth, does, as the librettist says, seem to be a "vain gift". When one ponders the question, "What is the greatest gift that I have seen given to the Lord?", one does not consider as greatest, a large check made out to a church. Rather, one recalls the life-long gifts Mother Theresa gave, bringing the love of God to poor and sick children in India. Or one thinks of the Prison Chaplain, seeking to use the love of God to mend broken lives. Or even, one thinks of the love of God shared by the helping hand of a neighbor, given during a time of need. These are gifts of the heart, not the stuff of earth. This sentiment is reflected in Mvt. 6 Tenor Aria: "Take me as Your own... Take my heart as my gift... All, all that I am... I shall always be dedicated to Your service."

The Cantata ends with Mvt. 7 Chorale, which is a prayer that the gift be accepted, and through it, God's honor be exalted.>>

Text Author Christian Weiss Sr.?
Texts: The librettist of BWV 65 may be Christian Weiss Sr., accessed at BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Weiss-Christian.htm. <<Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works by Christian Weiss, Sr. Wustmann and Neumann suggest: BWV 37, BWV 44, BWV 67, BWV 75, BWV 76, BWV 81, BWV 104, BWV 154, BWV 166, BWV 179; others (Terry, Young) suggest also: BWV 40, BWV 42, BWV 45, BWV 46, BWV 64, BWV 65, BWV 69, BWV 77, BWV 89, BWV 102, BWV 105, BWV 110, BWV 119, BWV 120, BWV 136, BWV 143.

In an attempt to identify the author of some of the new texts for Bach's first Leipzig cantata cycle (1723-24), Albert Schweitzer examined contexts, circumstances and internal philology to suggest possible texts of "Author A." BWV 22 and BWV 23 (Quinquageisma 1723 probe), BWV 75 and BWV 76 (initial first cycle works for the First and Second Sundays After Trinity), BWV 154 (First Sunday After Epiphany 1724), and BWV 245 (Passion, Good Friday 1724).>>

Epiphany ‘Season’

<<Epiphany means "to show," "to make known" or "to reveal." It represents Jesus revealed to the Gentiles, as shown in the recognition or adoration of the Three Kings, Wise Men or Magi. The three are thought to have been learned members of the Eastern Zoroastrian religion, best known in Friedrich Nietsche's book (and Richard Strauss' tone poem) "Also Sprach (Thus Spake) Zarathustra (Zoroaster").

The actual Epiphany "Season" is a mixed, in-between, overlapping time - in fact, it is not even a church season, based in part on its treatment in Lutheran hymn books and Bach-era chorale settings. In traditional Christian practice It was the period from the fixed date festival of the Feast of Epiphany or the Adoration of the Magi, on January 6 to Ash Wednesday or the beginning of the Lenten season. The theme of "epiphany" or illumination, is repeated in the lectionaries, or appointed readings, for the intervening Sundays, from the Baptism of Our Lord to the Transfiguration of Our Lord and includes such other revelatory events as Jesus' first miracle at the wedding feast at Canaan to the calling of the disciples.

By tradition, the Feast of Epiphany marked the end of the 12-day Christmas season while it is observed in certain cultures and regions as the profane celebration of Jesus' Coming or the alternate Christmas Day celebration.

Today, the so-called Epiphany Season is recognized and observed in the Lutheran Church as a period of Standard Sundays or Green Sundays (the color of the paraments and vestments). This means that Epiphany time is an "omnes tempore" period, like the last half of the calendar and church year, called the Trinity Season or the Twenty-some Sundays After Pentecost. These Standard Sundays emphasize the timeless teachings of Jesus Christ, rather than the milestone events in his life. The established, fixed "de tempore" or timely seasons of Christmas and Easter-Pentecost, are preceded by fixed observance periods of reflection and temperance, called Advent and Lent. The "de tempore" seasons of Christmas and Pentecost end, respectively, with the Feasts of Epiphany and Trinity Sunday. My primary source is <Keeping Time, the Church's Years, Using Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Vol.3> (Augsburg Fortress, 2009).

The Advent and Lent seasons in Leipzig were called "tempus clausum," or clostime when figural music was forbidden. The Picander libretto cycle of 1728-29 does include settings for the three closed Sundays in Advent and the five Sundays in Lent, as does poetess Marianne von Ziegler's complete cycle written in 1730.

Epiphany Cantatas

By 1727, Bach had begun to curtail his production of church-year cantatas during the Epiphany time and began to substitute the first of some 18 cantatas of his cousin, Johann Ludwig Bach. Perhaps he did this in part in to prepare for the presentation of the annual Good Friday Passion (St. Matthew) at the end of Lent. Three Bach cantatas are extant for the first two Sundays after Epiphany (BWV 154, BWV 124, BWV 32; and BWV 155, BWV 3, BWV 13), four for the Third Sunday (BWV 73, BWV 111, BWV 72, BWV 156), two for the Fourth Sunday (BWV 81, BWV 14) and none for the less-frequent fifth and sixth Sundays. Bach composed three cantatas for the three pre-Lenten Sundays: Septuageisma (BWV 144, BWV 92, BWV 84), Sexageisma (BWV 18, BWV 181, BWV 126) and Quinquageisma (BWV 22, BWV 23, BWV 127, BWV 159).

As to the question about why large church attendance in the later Epiphany season, followed by the three Sundays ("gesimas" or "Lord's Day") before Lent. I can only conjecture, based upon some possible historical threads and an old Lutheran Book, <The Church Year,> by Paul Zeller Strodach (United Lutheran Pub., 1943). The author contrasts the curtailed late Epiphany season of naming and manifestation with the preparation for the introspective Lent Sea. Specifically, the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany could be considered for the Lord of Nature; the Fifth for the Lord of Teaching or the Word.

As to possible historical threads. The period before Lent, especially in Catholic areas is Mardi Gras, Fasching, Carnival, but usually around Ash Wednesday. Another celebration in Leipzig was the annual Winter Fair, or Neujahrs. Like the other two fairs, it lasted three weeks and then the week after the fair (Zahlwoche -- Accounting), merchants who obtained proper permission were allowed to continue to sell goods while taxes were being assessed" (George B. Stauffer, "Leipzig: a Cosmopolitan Trade Centre," Music and Society: Late Baroque Era, p. 257). So the fair could last until January 28 in the fixed Epiphany season, beginning January 6, with the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany falling as early as January 28. We know from the church records that attendance went up during the fairs, especially the Spring or Easter starting at Jubilate Sunday (3rd after Easter), and the Autumn, St. Michael's, Sept. 29, beginning Oktoberfest. Perhaps the Leipzig Protestants in January were getting a leg up on their Catholic brethren in Dresden and especially Munich (from BWV 14, BCML Discussion Part 2, Oct. 19, 2008, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV14-D2.htm).

Chorales6

In Bach's time and before, the Epiphany period was not observed in the Lutheran hymn books as a season for distinct chorale settings, between hymns for the Advent-Christmas Season and Easter-Pentecost Season. In both the Neumeister and Orgelbüchlien collections of organ chorale prelude settings for the church year, there are no designated Epiphany hymns, just as in the hymn books there are no sections titled "Epiphany Hymns." Instead, the hymn books have a topical, "omnes tempore" collection of some 28 chorales under the heading "Jesus Hymns." These include Jesus hymns used by Bach in four cantatas for Epiphany time (BWV 81, BWV 123, BWV 124, BWV 154): "Liebster Immanual, Herzog des Frommen," Meine Jesum lass ich nicht," Jesu, meiner Seelen wonne," and "Jesu, meine Freude," says Günther Stiller in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (p. 249, Concordia, 1984).

In the Haenssler recordings of the Complete Bach Edition of the chorales BWV 250-507, there is no listing for "Epiphany" cantatas. Instead, there is the listing: Edition Bachakademie Vol. 84, A Book of Chorale-Settings for Patience & Serenity/Jesus Hymns. The chorales and songs are: BWV 335, 339, 352, 353, 355, 361, 379, 380, 384, 409, 417, 419, BWV 1125.

In his Epiphany time cantatas, Bach used four pre-Epiphany chorales: "Peur natus in Betlehem" (BWV 65/2), "Ich stehe in deiner Krippen hier" (BWV 248VI/6[59])), "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid" (BWV 3), and "In allen meinen taten" (BWV 13/6).

Thus, the Feast of Epiphany includes Christmas hymns like "Peur natus in Betlehem," closing the Christmas Season, while the Epiphany Period emphasizes "Jesus Hymns" which can be used at other times, as well as Passion-related hymns. The closing, fixed three pre-Lent (Vorfastenzeit) Sundays are misnamed Septuageisma, Sexageisma, and Quinquageisma (70, 60 and 50 days before the Lord's Day) and can include Lenten hymns. Bach seized the advantage, using a range of chorales to fulfill his "well-regulated music for the church year."

Bach's chorale cantatas (Cycle 2) for the First through the Fourth Sundays after the Feast of Epiphany are: 1. BWV 124, "Meinen Jesum, lass ich nicht;" BWV 3, "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid"; 3. BWV 111, "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit"; and 4. BWV 14, Waer Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit."

Besides setting these Epiphany chorales, Bach used the following "Jesus Hymns" in Epiphany time cantatas:

Jesu, meine Freude (BWV 81/7); Jesu, meiner Seelen wonne (BWV 154/3); Liebster Immanual, Herzog des Frommen (BWV 123); and Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (BWV 124, BWV 154/8).

Bach also used these chorales in Epiphany time cantatas: Freu dich sehr, meine Seele (BWV 32/6); Herr, wie du willt, so sichts mit mir (BWV 73/1, BWV 156/6); Machs mit mir Gott, nach deiner Gut (BWV 156/2); and Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit (BWV 72/1) (BWV 144/6).

For the three pre-Lent "geisma" Sundays, Bach composed chorale cantatas BWV 92, "Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn"; BWV 126, "Erhalt uns, bei deinem Wort"; and BWV 127, "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott."

Bach also composed three cantatas for each of the three pre-Lent Sundays: Septuageisma (BWV 144, BWV 92, BWV 84), Sexageisma (BWV 18, BWV 181, BWV 126) and Quinquageisma (BWV 22, BWV 23, BWV 127, BWV 159).

In addition, Bach used both Passion and non-Passion chorales in his nine pre-Lent cantatas: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (BWV 144/3); Wer nur den lieben Gott, laesst walten (BWV 84/5;); Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt (BWV 18/5); Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn (BWV 22/5); Christe, du Lamm Gottes (BWV 23/4); Herzlich tut , etc. (BWV 159/2); Jesu, Kreuz, Leiden, Pein und Tod (BWV 159/5)>>

FOOTNOTES

1 Cantata 65, BCW Details and revised and updated Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65.htm. Score Vocal & Piano [1.66 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV065-V&P.pdf, Score BGA [2.59 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV065-BGA.pdf. References, BGA XVI (Cantatas 61-70, Wilhelm Rust, 1868), NBA I/5 KB (Epiphany cantatas, Marianne Helms, 1976), Bach Compendium BC A 27, Zwang: K 57.
2 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 372).
3 Mincham, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page, http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/index.htm.
4 Cantata 65, Francis Browne BCW English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV65-Eng3.htm.
5 Source, William Hoffman (October 20, 2009), BCML Discussion Part 3, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65-D3.htm).
6 Source: 'Motets & Chorales for Turning Time," Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Motets & Chorales for Turning Time

William Hoffman wrote (January 11, 2016):
Epiphany Cantata 65: Gardiner, Suzuki Liner Notes

One of Bach’s most rewarding and striking works, Cantata 65, “Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, (All they from Sheba shall come) is illuminated in two liners notes of recordings of John Eliot Gardiner and Masaaki Suzuki found at the Bach Cantata Website. Cantata 65 Details and revised and updated Discography with 23 listings are found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65.htm, Gardiner No. 17, Suzuki No. 20). Enjoy.

The Leipzig Nikolaikirche setting and the “pageant-like and eastern in atmosphere” opening chorus are graphically described in John Eliot Gardiner’s 2010 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.1

<<Leipzig, for many the self-styled Mecca of the Bach tradition and religion, was always going to be a high point in our pilgrimage and one of the biggest challenges. Our first appearance there was on the 6 January, the Feast of Epiphany, in the thirteenth century Nikolaikirche, the official church of the city in Bach’s day, a place which during the 1980s became a focus of hope for change. It was here that the charismatic pastor Christian Führer presided, leading the Monday prayer meetings open to all. On 9 October 1989, at the height of the GDR crack-down on dissidents and demonstrators, he was surprised to find his church pews filled with 1,000 party officials and Stasi members anticipating trouble and an invasion by the so-called ‘rowdies’. None materialised. Instead Pastor Führer recited to his Stasi congregation the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. The gallery gradually filled with peace-abiding congregants, and eventually after the bishop’s blessing and urgent call for non-violence, 2,000 people left the church to be greeted by tens of thousands outside holding candles. As one member of the ruling party said, ‘We had planned everything. We were prepared for everything. But not for candles and prayers.’ Eleven years later Pastor Führer’s welcome to us could not have been warmer or more heartfelt. Luxury of luxuries, we had three days in this inspirational setting to prepare for this Epiphany concert, a programme comprising parts V and VI of the Christmas Oratorio flanking two of Bach’s most striking Leipzig cantatas, BWV 123 Liebster Immanuel and BWV 65 Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen.

Bach never came up with anything more pageant-like and eastern in atmosphere than the opening chorus of BWV 65 Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen composed in 1724. He uses the high horns to convey majesty and antiquity, the recorders to represent the high pitches often associated with oriental music and the oboes da caccia (in tenor register) to evoke the shawm-like double-reed instruments (salamiya and zurna) of the Near East. The opening ritornello shows off the burnished sheen of his orchestra to perfection and concludes with a final unison statement of the theme spread over five octaves. Even before the voices enter in canonic order Bach parades before our eyes the stately procession of the three magi and the ‘multitude of camels’ (mentioned in the omitted verse from Isaiah) laden with gifts. This imposing chorale fantasia concludes with a restatement of the octave unison theme, this time by all the voices and instruments as the caravan comes to a halt in front of the manger. Now there is a sudden shift in scale and mood, from the outward pomp of the royal procession to the intimacy of the simple stable and to the oblations offered to the child in the crib, as the choir intone the sober German version of the Latin ‘Puer natus in Bethlehem’, traditionally sung in Leipzig at this feast. There follows a secco recitative exemplary in its word setting, its arching melodies and rich chromatic harmonies, culminating in an affecting arioso. This leads in turn to an aria for bass (No.4) in which the two oboes da caccia engage in a triple canon with the continuo, evidently to portray the gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. A second recitative follows, this time for tenor: in exchange for ‘my heart that I humbly bring Thee... give Thyself to me as well’. To depict ‘the most abundant wealth’ that the Christian will inherit, Bach opts for the most opulent scoring in the entrancing triple-rhythm tenor aria (No.6). Pairs of recorders, violins, horns, and oboes da caccia operate independently and in consort, exchanging one-bar riffs in kaleidoscopic varieties of timbre. To English ears the main melody has more than a passing similarity to the nursery rhyme ‘Lavender’s blue’, while the fervent concluding chorale (verse 10 of Paul Gerhardt’s ‘Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn’), set to a secular French sixteenth-century melody, is familiar as the hymn ‘O God, our help in ages past’.

Suzuki Recording Notes

The meaning of the feast of the Epiphany, the vivid libretto that to “one of the most beautiful” of Bach’s Christmas cantatas, and the influence of popular song are described in Klaus Hofmann’s 2002 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantata recordings.2 <<At Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the Magi, which is celebrated on 6th January in Western Christianity, the gospel reading - and usually also the sermon — is about one of the most folk-tale-like episodes of the Christmas story: the Wise Men from the East who, following the star, find the ‘new-born King of the Jews’ in the stable in Bethlehem, worship the Christ child and offer him gold, incense and myrrh (Matthew 2, 1-12). The legend has variously turned the Wise Men into Ma'gi, astrologers and even into kings, has given them the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar - in which guise, to this day, they travel from house to house in many parts of Europe, singing, one of them traditionally with a blackened face to suggest his African origins. The lesson that is read during the church service on that day is excellently suited in this context, and may even have encouraged such customs. It is a vision of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 60.1-6): one day the heathen peoples will come from afar and turn to God. ‘Sie werden von Saba alle kommen’ (‘All they from Sheba shall come’), it concludes, ‘Gold und Weihrauch bringen und des Herren Lob verkindigen’ (‘they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord’). ‘Sheba’ represents a faraway, legendary country somewhere in the south-west of Arabia, but ultimately means ‘from all over the world’.

Bach’s cantata was composed for 6th January 1724. The author of the text — whose identity, as unfortunately is so often the case, is unknown — demonstrated that he was theologically competent and poetically skilful. He combines epistle and gospel, placing at the beginning the Old Testament prophecy: ‘Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen...’ (‘All they from Sheba shall come...’), and then reveals the fulfilment of the prophecy — not, admittedly, by means of the extensive gospel text, but rather by a song strophe in the folk style: ‘Die Konige aus Saba kamen dar, Gold, Weihrauch, Myrrhen brachten sie dar. Alleluja’ (‘The kings came from out of Sheba, and laid there Gold, incense and myrrh, Halleluia’ - after the Latin ‘Puer natus in Bethlehem’). The continuation of this train of thought is that the Christian should take his metaphorical place in the stable in Bethlehem alongside the Wise Men and present his gift. This gift is not of material value, however, for it is his heart; he is giving himself: ‘Nimm mich dir zu eigen hin, nimm mein Herze zum Geschenke’ (‘Take me as your own, take my heart as a gift’; sixth movement).

On the basis of this text, Bach created one of the most beautiful of his Christmas cantatas. With astonishing sureness of touch he combines high artwith the folk style. Nowhere does he allow any doubt concerning the seriousness and profundity of the theological messages. At the same time, however, he does full justice to the expectations of the lay theologians; it is as though he were adding colour to the biblical images. The use of horns (which at that time were still relatively unusual in church music), oboi da caccia (also a novelty in the sound world of the era) and recorders lends the opening chorus a slightly exotic character — without, however, forcing the actual musical artistry into a subservient position. Indeed, quite the opposite is- true: as the movement progresses, Bach lays bare his artistry as a composer of fugues. Then, however, we quite simply come to the popular song strophe about the ‘Konigen aus Saba’ (‘The kings came from out of Sheba’). The bass aria ‘Gold aus Ophir ist so schlecht’ (‘Gold from Ophir is too poor’, fourth movement) once again has a hint of exoticism owing to its unusual scoring for two oboi da caccia. ‘Ophir’, a country whose identity cannot be identified with certainty but from which the Jewish King Solomon once acquired huge amounts of gold (1 Kings 9,28) is here equated by the poet with the similarly legendary land of ‘Sheba’. In the heartfelt, dance-like tenor aria ‘Nimm mich dir zu eigen hin’ (‘Take me as your own’; sixth movement), the colourful, ‘oriental’ wind instruments are again heard to full effect.

In Bach’s score, the final chorale lacks a text. It is probable that he intended the tenth strophe of the song Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn (I have, in the heart and mind of God...) by Paul Gerhardt (1647): ‘Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich denn getrost in deine Hande’ (‘Now, my God I fall consoled into your embrace’) — the confession and expression of unlimited faith in God.

FOOTNOTES

1 Gardiner liner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P18c[sdg174_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec3.htm#P18.
2Hofmann liner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C21c[BIS-CD1311].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec2.htm#C21.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 13, 2016):
Cantata BWV 65 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 65 "Sie Werden aus Saba alle kommen" (They will all come from Sheba) for the Feast of Epiphany on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 2 horn, 2 recorders, 2 oboes da caccia, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (23): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (15): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65-2.htm
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 65 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW the recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV65-D4.htm

 

Cantata BWV 65: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
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